The first time I ever had moussaka was when my ex-in-laws made it for dinner one night. I think they were trying this whole “putting-the-romance-into-their-retired-life” sort of thing by cooking together. And I can totally see why moussaka would seem a good bet for team building.
The beauty of moussaka is that it is a deceptively simple dish. Made very much like traditional lasagne, it features layers of vegetables, a beautifully scented meat sauce and a creamy bechamel sauce on top. It is seriously gorgeous to eat. But at about two hours of prep and cook time, it is definitely not a weekday dinner! Unless, of course, you do what I do and make it ahead! This dish freezes beautifully, or you can assemble it one day and cook it another. It’s versatile!
The trick is to get each ingredient/layer ready and then assemble the whole thing last minute. So here’s what you need to do.
1/2 lb ground beef
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 C red wine
8 oz tomato sauce (canned)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp dried oregano
salt/pepper to taste
5 T butter
5 T flour
4 C milk (warmed)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
salt to taste
2 medium/large red potatoes
1. Cut the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, brush with olive oil on both sides, as well as a nice sprinkling of salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes on each side at 400 degrees on a baking sheet. Set aside.
2. Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds and boil them for about 5 – 6 minutes in a heavily salted pot of water. Drain and set aside.
3. For the meat sauce, sweat the onions in the olive oil until they are nicely soft. Add in the minced garlic and the ground beef and cook until the beef is browned. Add in the spices and cook until the smell permeates the air around you (a minute or two). Turn up the heat and then add in the red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes until reduced and then add in the tomato sauce. Simmer for a few minutes and then set aside.
4. For the bechamel, add the butter into a medium hot pan and melt. Add in the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Keep whisking, allowing the paste to bubble. Add in your warm milk and continue to whisk. Work out any lumps. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat to low and allow it to cook until it becomes thick (around ten minutes). Add in the salt and nutmeg and whisk one last time.
5. To assemble the dish, layer the potatoes across the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle some parmesan on top. Next, add the eggplant in a new layer, and sprinkle again with parmesan. Then, layer the meat sauce on top of this, sprinkling again with a bit of parmesan. Finally, pour your bechamel sauce on top of the entire dish and sprinkle again with some parmesan.
6. Bake the dish in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered and another 30 minutes uncovered.
This dish is truly yummy, and even my two year old eats it! I hope you try it yourself and enjoy a taste of Greece at home.